March 23rd 2013 was a special day.
It was special in Britain because the weather did something rather odd – it went back in time.
More accurately, the weather seemed to give up being Spring and decided that Winter was a much better idea.
Coincidentally, that happened to make the wedding of two of our friends rather special as it was also the day of their wedding and the world became as white as the Bride’s dress. The snow lay thick enough in Oxford, UK to cover everything in a thick, beautiful blanket but not so bad that guests and the wedding couple themselves couldn’t make it to the church.
For Thing I and I, it was a very special privilege even if we were feeling the cold rather a lot. We’d only been back in the country for a handful of days just as Bangladesh began its hot season in earnest. I left Asia wearing shorts and entered Britain in multiple jumpers and a coat!
I was very proud of Thing I looking beautiful in a red and green saree having been asked to be one of the bridesmaids. She’s growing up so fast, I’m astonished at the fine young woman she is becoming and scared about what happened to my baby girl. Where did she go, all of a sudden?
I was also proud to be the Best Man for the Groom. Although he has many good friends who could have done the job considerably better, it was a privilege for Wifey and I to see the relationship between these two blossom and guide them on their way to becoming man and wife. Although we couldn’t afford for all of us to come back to the UK (it was financially crippling for two of us to come at all, to be honest) we made the commitment for two so that we could be there right at the end of this adventure.
And what an adventure that has been.
My friend was one of the Bangladeshi doctors working at LAMB (a home-grown boy who has spent his whole life here) when a certain young lady, a British doctor with a Sri Lankan background, came to visit. I won’t delve into the details but a friendship grew and the two kept in touch through the internet.
Anyone who knows the both of them know how perfectly suited they are to one another and the two of them realised the same thing as they corresponded. Last year, in May, she returned to Bangladesh and after a period of days together, chaperoned by Wifey and myself, they announced their engagement.
Again, I won’t go into essentially private details, but the road to the altar was not smooth and straight though the determination of the happy couple and their love for one another never wavered. There were battles and disappointments as some people struggled with the idea of their cross-cultural relationship. A bigger fight though was with the visa application forms to allow the marriage to take place at all. I saw those forms and I think it is a miracle anyone from outside the UK marries anyone from inside. By the time they collected various evidence from banks and the like and handed it in, it was considered ‘out of date’ and requested all over again.
Immigration services are, I believe, run by sadists.
Nevertheless, ten months on and mountains of paperwork later they were both in the same country and ready to become Mr & Mrs. They had battled all their enemies and won.
After that, I maintain they both had it easy. As long as they both turned up at the right church everyone else did the real work! I got the Groom there easily but whoever looked after the Bride didn’t do quite so well – thirty minutes later we were still waiting and I was ready to take the two of us across the road to the rather nice-looking pub opposite with orders for someone to “texts us when she turns up!” But I resisted and, looking beautiful, turn up she did.
Of course, no one worked harder than me that day.
I was given the rings to look after until the minister called for them. You can see me on one of the shots checking I still had them – something I must have done over one hundred times before and during the service. Despite shaking hands, I managed to deliver them to the man in the frock without the ignominy of launching them into space first.
Then I had to read the a Bible passage in Bangla (Revelations – never an easy book even in English) when I knew there were more than a dozen people present who would know just how awful my pronunciation was.
I was also given the duty of ‘Master of Ceremonies’ calling people to attention at the right times. I have to admit, with my wedding in with all the weddings I’ve attended since, I’ve never paid attention to what MCs do or say, so I did what I do best in such situations:
I faked it.
I reasoned that as long as I sounded confident and looked like I knew what I was doing, no one would be any the wiser.
Finally, at the reception at a local restaurant, I gave my speech. I love giving presentations and after-dinner speeches but, for some reason, hate Best Man speeches. I’m hopeless at them at least in part because I can’t tell a joke for toffee. I’ve seen more blank stares and looks of horror during my (few) Best Man speeches than I’ve experienced in twenty-one years of teaching grunts in the classroom (though I’ve had a few there too).
Annoyingly – but also brilliantly – after getting through my speech without too many groans and gasps of horror from the guests, Holly’s father (who just does not look old enough to be her dad) got up and gave a fantastic speech ‘off the cuff’. He had us in stitches and moved us with his loving words for Holly.
How do people like him do it? It’s very upsetting.
Anyway, ‘that was the day that was’ and two days later, my daughter and I were on a plane back to hot and humid Bangladesh. Within the week I had shown the family of the Groom all the hundreds of wedding photos I’d accumulated. Trying to transport a family of rural-dwelling Bangladeshis to Oxford was never going to be an option so they had to settle for a rather poor substitute in me. Nevertheless, the beams on their faces told me just how delighted they were.
It was a happy and long-awaited day.